There are times in all relationships when things don’t run smoothly. Often, this is because people have conflicting expectations, are distracted with other issues, or have
difficulty expressing what is on their minds in ways that other people can really hear and understand what is being said. Sometimes they just don’t know what to do to make
a good relationship. The following material is about ways of enhancing relationships and working with common problems.
Let’s begin with emotional support vs. emotional demands. Emotional support for each other is critical. This means giving your partner a feeling of being backed, supported;
you’re behind him or her no matter what. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with one another all the time. Realistically, no two people will agree on all occasions.
What it does mean is treating your partner in a way that says, “I love you and trust you, and I’m with you through anything.”
Emotional demands can damage the relationship. Insisting that your partner spend all of his or her time with you, insisting that they give up their friends or that you both
hang around only your friends, insisting that you give approval of the clothes they wear, making sure that you make all the decisions about how you spend your time together
and where you go when you go out, making them feel guilty when they spend time with their families, making sure you win all the arguments, always insisting that your
feelings are the most important… each of these is an emotional demand, and has potential for damaging the relationship.
Emotional support involves accepting your partner’s differences and not insisting that they meet your needs only in the precise way the you want them met. An example might
be when want your partner to show love for you by spending free time with you, sharing and being open, paying attention to your concerns and needs. Of course these are
important activities, but your partner may often show his or her love by doing things, like sharing home responsibilities, bringing you gifts occasionally, discussing the day’s
events or books and movies you’ve shared. Find out how your partner chooses to show his or her love for you and don’t set criteria which mean that your partner must
always behave differently before you’re satisfied. Remember, too, that the words “I love you. I like being in a relationship with you. You’re important to me.” are not demands
and need to be said occasionally in any relationship.
Time Spent Together and Apart
Time spent apart and time spent together is another common relationship concern. You may enjoy time together with your partner and your partner may want some time
together with you, but you also may enjoy time alone, or with other friends. If this gets interpreted as, “my partner doesn’t care for me as much as I care / need” or “I resent
the time my partner spends alone because they don’t want to spend it with me and they must not really love me,” you may be headed for a disastrous result by jumping to a
premature conclusion. Check out with your partner what time alone means and share your feelings about what you need from the relationship in terms of time together.
Perhaps you can reach a compromise where you get more time together but leave your partner the freedom to be alone or with others times when it is needed, without your
feeling rejected or neglected or thinking of your partner as selfish, inconsiderate, or non-caring. Demanding what you want, regardless of your partner’s needs, usually ends
up driving your partner away.
Your Partner’s Family
For some people, dealing with their partner’s family is difficult. You may wonder how you can have a good relationship with them, or if you want to. Let’s assume at the very
beginning that most parents are concerned about their children. They do want to stay in contact with their children. They do want to see them, visit them and have continuing
contact with them. (You will also do this when you become parent). However, a problem sometimes arises when these parents forget that their children are separate
individuals and that they now have separate lives and that they must make their own decisions. Some family members volunteer a lot of uninvited advice or try to tell you and
your partner how to run your lives. One way of handling this is to listen respectfully, let them know that you care about what they think and what they would do, but not make
any promises to follow their advice. Just simply listen because they have a need to say it. If they attempt to pressure you into agreeing with them, you must be firm in saying,
“I respect your views and ideas. Thanks for letting us know how you might deal with it. We’ll think about that when we make our decision.” You might need to say this a
number of times before the family members finally get the message that you’re going to make your own decisions even after hearing their advice. It will also be important
that you and your partner be in agreement that you will deal with unsolicited advice in this way so you can support one another in the face of what could be some very
How do you and your partner make decisions about handling money? Are decisions made individually or mutually? How are the priorities set about how money is to be
earned? Spent? Who pays the bills? How much money goes into savings and for what purposes? How are “big ticket” (tuition, childcare, rent, car payments) items decided
on? Does each member of the partnership control her or his own money or is it pooled? Is each partner expected to add to the mutual income? If only one is to work, how is
it decided who it will be? If you find that you and your partner have differing expectations, it makes sense that you will have to make time to talk about them after stating your
feelings, wishes, and desires and listening carefully to those of your partner. Decisions that might be easy to make when you’re making them only for yourself might be more
difficult when they involve someone else and the best solutions might not be those you think of just on your own. Discussion and cooperation may not provide any magic
solutions to difficult financial problems, but knowing you and your partner agree about how to approach the situation will relieve at least some of the stress.
Coping with Changing Expectations in the Relationship
Relationships change over time. This is neither a good nor a bad thing, but it is a fact. What you want from a relationship in the dating stages might be quite different from
what you want after you have been together a number of years. Changes in other areas of your life, outside your relationship, will have an impact on what you want and
need from the relationship. You need to be sure you and your partner make time to discuss your expectations and negotiate responsibilities. The most important thing is that
you need to do a great deal of careful, respectful listening to what each wants, and a lot of careful, clear communication about what each of you wants. Change of any sort
tends to be at least a little stressful, yet because it is inevitable, welcoming change as an opportunity to enhance the relationship is more fruitful than trying to keep change
from happening. Planning for changes together can lead the relationship into new and exciting places.
Seven Basic Steps to Maintaining a Good Relationship
1. Be aware of what you and your partner want for yourselves and what you want from the relationship.
2. Let one another know what your needs are.
3. Realize that your partner will not be able to meet all of your needs. Some of these needs will have to be met outside the relationship.
4. Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want from one another.
5. Do not demand that a partner change to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences that you see between your ideal and the reality.
6. Try to see things from the other’s point of view. This doesn’t mean that you must agree with one another, but rather that you can expect yourself and your partner to
understand and respect your differences, your points of view and your separate needs.
7. Where critical differences exist in your expectations, needs, opinions or views, try to negotiate.